Sudburians are used to feeling the shudders from underground blasting and seeing the night sky lit up from slag, but mines of the future could be much more subtle and efficient.
“One of the things we’re looking at is mining with no tailings,” said Carl Weatherell, executive director of the Canada Mining Innovation Council, at the Beyond Digital Transformation conference on Wednesday.
As well, companies are exploring how to “get rid of drill and blast,” he said, which apart from being dangerous is “perhaps not the most effective way to break rock and is not creating value.”
An alternative, he said, is to utilize a mechanical cutting machine, powered by electricity, and to move material by rail conveyance instead of rubber-tired trucks. “It’s electric and continuous, and you can put ore-sorting on it,” he noted.
To eliminate or at least reduce tailings, mines can also explore dry processing (rather than add water), he said, and look for ways to make comminution — the grinding of rocks into small pieces — more cost-effective.
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